Lonnie Ballentine has waited a really long time for this opportunity.
The second-year safety returned to action during the Texans offseason program in OTAs and mandatatory minicamp.
"Lonnie has made improvements," head coach Bill O'Brien said on June 17. "I think that Lonnie missed all of last year with his injury, so this is essentially similar to a rookie year for him. I think that he's much more in tuned to what we're doing. He's an excellent athlete. He's got good size, good speed. He's a good kid, works hard. I think that he's really playing essentially for the first time because he got hurt so early for us. This is kind of a rookie year for him and he's made progress this spring."
Ballentine (6-3, 215) is finally getting his chance this fall after playing the waiting game for the past year. Last May, waited through what he called a "nerve-wracking" experience. He watched 255 names called during the 2014 NFL Draft before he heard his own. At the time, he didn't know that "Mr. Irrelevant" was a title bestowed upon the last overall pick. Still, he embraced it and was excited to hear his name. He vowed to show he was relevant and could play just as hard as any of those names called before his.
But, he'd have to wait a little longer.
Ballentine landed on injured reserve before the start of his rookie season after hurting himself early in training camp.
"It was tough," Ballentine said on Texans Radio. "I never missed a year of football all the way through small league all the way up to college. I'm just getting here and just sustaining the injury, it was tough, but the coaching staff and the teammates did a great job of keeping me involved and keeping me into it."
Ballentine attended meetings, walk-throughs, games all while working his way back from an injury sustained early in training camp last year. He did everything but take the field for games and practice. All of it tested his resolve and helped enhance his game mentally.
"It feels good just to be back out there after sitting out a whole year from injury," Ballentine said. "It just feels great to be back on the field with my teammates."
The Texans 2015 training camp begins Saturday, August 1 at the Houston Methodist Training Center.